Anglo American Platinum Ltd. (AMS), the
world’s biggest producer of the metal, said 11 percent of its
workers went on strike less than a week after a state-sponsored
peace accord failed to win unanimous agreement from unions.
About 5,600 striking workers at the Thembelani and
Khuseleka 1 mines in South Africa are demanding that suspended
officials from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction
Union are reinstated, the Johannesburg-based company known as
Amplats said in a statement today. The stoppage is unauthorized,
the Anglo American Plc (AAL) unit said.
The AMCU was the only union that last week refused to sign
the agreement aimed at bringing stability to mines as pay
negotiations begin. Falling precious metal prices are
constraining companies’ ability to meet union wage demands
higher than a year ago, when strikes and inter-union conflict
spilled over into violence that led to at least 44 deaths.
“Strike action has been surprisingly subdued in South
Africa, and we wait to see whether this triggers action at other
sites as wage negotiations advance against a background of
inter-union tensions,” Investec Plc (INVP)’s Global Natural Resources
Research Team said in a note today.
Aside from seeking a reversal of the ban on the union
officials for joining a sit-in protest, the workers also want
job cuts scrapped and a guarantee that a rival union be banished
from Amplats mines, the company said. Production was disrupted
at Thembelani last night and at both mines during the morning
and afternoon shifts, it said.
There have been no reports of violence since the strike
started, Sabata Mokgwabone, a spokesman for the South African
Police Service, said in a phone interview.
Jeff Mphahlele, general secretary for the AMCU, said some
of the union’s members didn’t go to work at Thembelani,
declining to give further details.
Rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers and the
AMCU, which has been winning employees from NUM, has escalated
tensions at mines across the country. Last month miners at
Thembelani, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) northwest of
Johannesburg, temporarily trapped 2,400 of their colleagues
underground as part of a union dispute.
Today’s striking workers are demanding Amplats give a
guarantee that NUM won’t be allowed to return to the company’s
operations, the platinum producer said.
Inter-union disputes have led to three workers’ deaths
since May in the Rustenburg area. Last year’s violence included
the deaths of 34 protesters killed by police in a single day
near Lonmin Plc (LMI)’s Marikana platinum mine.
Amplats is planning to cut 6,000 jobs as part of an effort
to return to profit by idling three shafts and reducing annual
output by 350,000 ounces of metal. Talks with unions about the
proposal are due to end on Aug. 10.
Lonmin, the world’s third-largest platinum producer, said
today that the NUM has brought a court application relating to
its membership numbers and those of AMCU. The platinum producer
said it couldn’t comment further before the hearing. NUM is
disputing the authenticity of AMCU’s membership numbers,
spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said last week.
“The company’s wider position remains that it wishes the
issue of union status at its operations to be resolved
peacefully, and as quickly as possible, for the benefit of all
stakeholders,” Lonmin said in the statement.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was appointed by
President Jacob Zuma to broker a solution to mine labor unrest,
leading to last week’s peace accord. The agreement was signed by
the Chamber of Mines, which represents producers, government
departments and labor unions apart from the AMCU, which is led
by former NUM official Joseph Mathunjwa.
“Anglo American Platinum would like to urge all employees
and their union representatives to live by the spirit of the
deputy president’s peace and stability framework and to promote
the peaceful co-existence of all the recognized unions at our
operations,” Amplats said in its statement.
The rand gained 0.5 percent to 10.1554 per dollar by 4 p.m.
in Johannesburg, after slumping as much as 0.9 percent earlier
to the weakest level since June 24. Amplats rose 2.5 percent to
286.7 rand by 4:15 p.m. in the city.
While platinum has dropped 13 percent this year, gold is 27
percent lower. A weaker gold price is hampering the ability of
producers of the metal to meet wage demands, according to the
Chamber of Mines, which represents South African bullion miners.
The mines chamber today hosted a pre-wage negotiation
meeting with unions aimed at winning agreement on how talks will
Entry-level underground gold miners receive a minimum wage
of 5,000 rand ($487) a month. AMCU is seeking to more double
this figure to 12,500 rand while NUM wants a 60 percent
South African workers may strike with their jobs protected
as long as an independent mediator agrees to the stoppage and
talks between unions and companies have failed.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Kevin Crowley in Johannesburg at
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
John Viljoen at
Amplats Mines Disrupted as 5600 Workers in South Africa Strike – Bloomberg